Learn to learn - and build adaptability, resilience

A SkillsFuture roadshow on Feb 22.
A SkillsFuture roadshow on Feb 22.PHOTO: ST FILE

The philosophical intent of the SkillsFuture scheme may have been misconstrued on the ground as "government-paid training" or another "lifelong learning campaign" ("It's a fund, it's a scheme - no it's SkillsFuture"; last Thursday).

Yet, it is clear that this is a grand opportunity for us to shift mindsets and attitudes towards learning and excellence.

Much as improving employability as the primary aim of SkillsFuture is hard to fault, we risk once again tagging learning to an economic objective and "preparing to do", instead of encouraging learning for learning's sake.

Why? Because what we often term as tangible measures of "success" (professional reputation, economic viability, and so on) are simply by-products of a life spent learning.

It is when we learn to learn that learning embodies the spirit of adaptability, of agility, of resilience and, mostly, of adding meaning and significance to why we do and learn what we do.

The current SkillsFuture marketplace is a smorgasbord of mostly prescriptive "technical" courses categorised by similarly prescribed life stages.

In an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment, a "technical" and linear approach to preparing for the future is no longer sufficient.

Even the brightest minds can never accurately predict what the future holds and what jobs will be created.

Recent history has shown us that new roles and functions are emerging at lightning speed that could never have been imagined just a few years back.

As a life coach, I see a common thread among my clients of different demographics, professions and nationalities that stops them in their tracks towards realising their potential - that of a deep fear of an uncertain future.

We would, therefore, be feeding and perpetuating this irrational need for a safe future if we provide prescribed "answers".

I support my clients with an adaptive approach through questioning, investigating, scenario-building and mostly, practising being comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I urge the Government to use the SkillsFuture platform to provide an opportunity for all (regardless of life stages) to learn adaptive life skills, aside from technical ones.

These should include, but not be limited to: focus and self-awareness, perspective-taking/empathy, taking on challenges, communicating and making connections.

These are invaluable tools for adapting to, learning from, and thriving within a world in rapid flux.

More than employability, let's build a nation of adaptability and agility to embrace an uncertain future - not with fear, but with confidence, dignity and meaning.

Anthea Ong Lay Theng (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'Learn to learn - and build adaptability, resilience'. Print Edition | Subscribe